Within the last 2 years we have gotten involved in blood-brain barrier (BBB) research, which is of great interest and of key importance for an understanding of the exchange of molecules across brain capillaries. Drug delivery to the central nervous system is a tremendous challenge. Drug transport across the brain endothelium forming the BBB is a particularly great challenge because of the low intrinsic permeability of the barrier to most solutes and the presence of active efflux transporters.
The Research Initiative on Brain Barriers and Drug Delivery (RIBBDD) was established as a network of five independent research units based at four Danish universities, Aalborg University (AAU), Aarhus University (AU), the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and University of Copenhagen (UCPH). RIBBDD started its activities in March 2014 and is funded by the Lundbeck Foundation. The vision is to establish a cutting-edge research program that goes beyond the current possibilities of each group. The laboratories will work together to develop new research methodologies and approaches for studying and enforcing drug transport across the BBB, cellular communication in the brain, and regulation of the BBB.
Our work package is divided into six projects all focused on elucidating function and pathology of the NVU and the BBB. There is great interest in the mechanisms by which neurons, astrocytes and vascular cells interact, and how this interplay controls the properties of the BBB. Recent studies suggest that pericytes play an essential role for blood-central nervous system barriers and that the lack of pericytes or impairment of function leads to accumulation of toxic substances in the tissue and in turn cell death.
A main aim of our lab is to develop experimental and analytical tools to be able to study BBB properties at the level of single capillaries for big and small molecules and to develop tools for in vivo evaluation of BBB permeability and diffusion coefficients for relevant substances in normal physiology and under conditions with a disrupted BBB such as after stroke or chemical treatment of the BBB. Little is known with regard to signaling among pericytes and astrocytes in disease states, and the consequences of failed communication between cells of the neurovascular unit for BBB breakdown. Therefore a second aim is to outline if signaling among NVU cells, or changes in NVU communication pathways contribute to BBB breakdown in focal ischemia in mice.
There are as yet no publications available, but we expect that this will change in 2017.